by Marjorie Gilbert

His reputation preceded him
Campus police guarded the doors
The written word can be dangerous you know
Bukowski was going to read his poems
The only request from Charles
Bring plenty of beer
Everything would flow
What a show!
From the stairwell he stood
Never looking up
Beer can in one hand, poem in the other
The pockmarked face
Showed the ravages of the life he had known
And the seeds he had sown
He read matter-of-factly
Laughter permeated the air
He didn’t care!
He sipped his beer between sentences
As he finished the page he tossed it on the floor
Several pages were scattered about
The words lay in repose
He was loaded and so were we
But in a different way
Raunchy verse from a man who had lived in flop houses
With winos, prostitutes, drug addicts, and other unsavory souls
Images of a life we would never know
This nether world revealed to us by a man who lived his prose.

“The Night Bukowski Read His Poems” was originally published in an article by Richard Verrier in the Los Angeles Times (Feb. 14, 2013) and appears in the Silver Birch Press Bukowski Anthology, available at

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Marjorie Gilbert was born in Racine, Wisconsin, in 1922 and in July 2013 celebrated her ninety-first birthday. During WWII, she served in the WAVES (the women’s branch of the U.S. Navy) until her husband was released from the U.S. Army. A mother of two, Marjorie went to work as a secretary in the History Department at California State University, Los Angeles, where she worked for over twenty years. During her retirement years, Marjorie has traveled throughout the world. An art lover, she volunteered for sixteen years at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California—a city where she currently resides.

NOTES FROM AUTHOR MARJORIE GILBERT: It is a hobby of mine to write about highlights in my life, and seeing and hearing Bukowski was one of those highlights. Regarding my attendance at Charles Bukowski’s reading at Cal State, Los Angeles, during the 1970s [as quoted in a 2/14/13 article by Richard Verrier in the  Los Angeles Times]:  “It was quite an evening. I didn’t even know who Bukowski was, so I sat there not knowing what to expect. Here he was with a beer can in one hand and he’s got these pages in the other hand and he’s reading to us like he couldn’t care less. He’d sip his beer than throw his page on the floor. He sounded very honest, like he was telling it like it is. I knew he lived a life I would never know, so I was intrigued.”